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Movie Review: The Pope’s Exorcist

Whenever the Catholic Church puts out a statement about a fictional film about exorcism that says that the film is abjectly false, it hits home that there is probably some truth to the film. That is what brought me to the theater to check out Russell Crowe’s new film, The Pope’s Exorcist. What is the church so afraid of in regards to this film?

Father Gabriel Amorth is an exorcist, though most of the people he helps are suffering more from mental illness than demonic possession. He is more at risk from younger members of the church who have begun to view exorcism in the 1980’s as an archaic way to deal with mental illness and wants to end the practice. The Pope, however, has other plans. He sends Gabriel to Spain where an American family has moved into an old church. The youngest child, a boy, has become possessed by a demon and Gabriel befriends the local priest to help him rid the boy and the church of the evil. What they find goes far deeper than simple possession when the realize that an opening to hell resides right under the church.

Father Gabriel’s story and exploration of what is really going on at that church in Spain is what truly carries the film. The family feels like an afterthought even as their tragic story tries to hold its own as the movie progresses. Russell Crowe puts in a great performance, drawing us in by commanding our attention.

This film is dark, and pulls from some of the Catholic Church’s bloodiest history. No wonder the church didn’t want to be associated with it. True or not, the ending sets up room for sequels and I for one would like a series of films of priests chasing down Hell’s deadliest demons.

As far as exorcism films go, this one doesn’t quite reach the heights of Exorcist III or The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but it certainly ranks above the worst of the bunch. I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly for Russell Crowe who really adds substance to the film.

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